Overfishing in Lake Victoria

Overfishing in Lake Victoria

By, Hugo Elder

How many of us think about where our fish dinner comes from? Given that overfishing in Lake Victoria is a serious issue, perhaps it’s time more of us did. Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake, known around the world, home to hundreds of species of fish, and hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it is under threat like never before.

Godfrey Ochieng, is a local fisherman, in Kisumu.

“Twenty years ago there was a lot more fish in the lake than there is today,” says Godfrey.

“Back then you could catch a fish that was 150kg… but now that is very rare. The biggest fish I caught was around 170kg, 13 years ago. But in the past decade, the biggest I have caught is 30kg. These days you might even go two months without catching a fish. In the near future there will be no fish in the lake. Some days already, the fishermen return without any fish at all.”

Overfishing in Lake Victoria – caused mostly by commercial fisheries – has led to native and invasive species (eg: Nile Perch) of fish becoming extinct, a lot of health problems for those who live around the lake, and great economic hardships for so many people who once made a living for their families from the fish and the lake.

Evelyn Athienbo is a local fishmonger who has been working in the industry for 30years. “As a fishmonger, commercial fisheries affect the ways of our village in a way that they want fish in a large quantity but the supply here is very small, so we miss out on the money because we don’t have the fish to give them.”

Godfrey agrees: “The numbers have decreased a lot,” he states. “I can say by around 60%.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Trust me, I just dipped my toes into Lake Victoria, and spoke to fisherman and local people. There are solutions: we need more policing to stop illegal fishing, fish should only be taken if they are the right size and nets have to be checked that they are legal mesh size so they don’t just sweep up everything.

“I’ve seen these people that go for the smaller fish at night,” says Maurice Ongoro, who has lived in the area for 25 years. “They use something like mosquito nets and this takes almost everything, including very small fish. It’s a trawling system. If this method could be stopped, all the fish could come back.

"Our fishermen need to be well educated, well informed. If they can catch the good sizes and throw back the small ones, then there might be no problem on our lake. "

Local Resident, Maurice Ongoro

He is right.

Together we can ensure that people agree to, and follow these sustainable ways of fishing, so as to save Lake Victoria, and those who depend on it

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